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After yet another maddening on-the-way-to-work wait for a gritty, feeble, bitter café latte, I’ve been doing some pondering forward-slash getting angry.

(A) Why is it that so many people who work in cafés in London have absolutely zero interest in actually serving you any coffee? This morning I pretty much had to jump up and down on the spot to get served, before being put through a testing display of incompetence that involved three members of staff and an abused Gaggia machine that sprayed coffee grounds into my to-go. I’d name names, but the coffee shop is the closest one to Smith HQ, and in a caffeine-crash crisis I’d have to go there, and I’d like my coffee to be foaming for all the right reasons.

(B) Why is it that almost every city in Europe (bar London, it would seem) is bursting with amazing cafés – and even rubbish cafés – where you can purchase a hot, smooth cup of simple caffeinated deliciousness without having to select from a ridiculous menu of stupidly named beverages? What kind of person drinks a pint of choca-mocha latte with extra almond syrup anyway? It’s more like a hot, liquid knickerbocker glory than a coffee. In this ‘can’t make a simple coffee’ category, I’m including all those fancy places that ought to know better: you’d be surprised how many ‘it’ restaurants and five-star hotels still can’t make a decent espresso. Way to ruin the end of a great meal. Gahh I’ve worked myself up into a right state just thinking about it!

Conclusion: I’ve decided to set out on a renewed Smith-style quest to find London’s best cafés and superior coffee shops. And then maybe the best café in the world. But let’s not run before we can walk.

To kick things off (and since the topic cropped up in Mrs Smith’s last Inside NYC blog post), I did a little background reading on Oliver Schwaner-Albright’s most excellent New York Times coffee blog. The pictures alone… mmn, it’s like coffee porn. Oliver, we salute you. I never knew there was so much to know! My inept offerings will doubtless by comparison be akin to rummaging blind in a large cloth bag, or trying to select wine from a menu of 350 without offending the sommelier. Oh well. If I could justify the journey (eg: scouting for boutique-hotel openings/checking up on Mr & Mrs Smith’s Danish hotels, Front and Avenue Hotel in Copenhagen), I’d have hied me hither for the World Barista Championships in Copenhagen. Although a quick look at this year’s results ranks the UK as only 10th best in the world as a country of coffeemakers. Which explains a few things

Next time on Coffee Break: we will grill Oliver for his superior coffee knowledge (and just generally have a chat, because he is a top chap), and attempt to find the best coffee in London. Any tips greatly appreciated. And please don’t tell us to go to Starbucks.

PLUS Coming soon: coffee shops we have known and loved, an international guide

Read our posts on the best coffee in Australia; and the best cafés in Melbourne

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